Evolution and ethics, evolution and personhood

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Evolution and ethics
Our ethical impulses do not necessarily correspond to truth, but we can discover ethical truths through reason. 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Our ethical impulses do not necessarily correspond to truth, but they are important for us on a human level. 67%  67%  [ 4 ]
Our ethical impulses do not necessarily correspond to truth, but we can get by replacing ethics with game theory. 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Our ethical impulses do not necessarily correspond to truth, therefore ethical claims do not matter, and all egoism is justified. 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Our ethical impulses actually do correspond to truth, as something about survival value does correspond to some ethical truth. 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Our ethical impulses actually do correspond to truth, as evolution is guided in some form or fashion. 17%  17%  [ 1 ]
Other 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
I don't know 17%  17%  [ 1 ]
Just give me the results 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Total votes : 6

Awesomelyglorious
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04 Dec 2009, 5:34 pm

Let's start off by accepting the idea that evolution is true, and that people evolved. What are the resulting issues:

Well, let's put it this way:
1) If people evolved, then our ethical impulses are derived from survival.
2) If our ethical impulses are derived from survival, then there is no reason that they'll correspond to some truth.
3) If there is no reason to believe that our ethical impulses correspond to truth, then what is the proper role of our ethical impulses?

It seems to me that there are a few responses:
1) Our ethical impulses do not necessarily correspond to truth, but we can discover ethical truths through reason.
2) Our ethical impulses do not necessarily correspond to truth, but they are important for us on a human level.
3) Our ethical impulses do not necessarily correspond to truth, but ethics and game theory are substitutes.
4) Our ethical impulses do not necessarily correspond to truth, therefore ethical claims do not matter, and all egoism is justified.
5) Our ethical impulses actually do correspond to truth, as something about survival value does correspond to some ethical truth.
6) Our ethical impulses actually do correspond to truth, as evolution is guided in some form or fashion.

Additionally, the same kind of issue seems to go for notions of personhood.

1) If people evolved, then our notions of personhood are derived from survival.
2) If our notions of personhood are derived from survival, then there is no reason that they'll correspond to some truth.
3) If there is no reason to believe that our notions of personhood correspond to truth, then what is the proper role of our these notions?

The issue here is that it can be argued that there is no such thing as objective personhood. An issue to keep in mind is science fiction, as a major theme in that is the personhood of non-human creatures. Now, while we might consider the most personal ones to obviously be persons, at what line can we draw before an alien is too alien? I am not saying that "personhood is an irrelevant category", but to me it seems clear that the lines of personhood are most relevant for ethics and human societies, not just a label on external realities like saying "the apple is red" (although it can be noted that apples are not red, they just reflect red light).

In any case, I do think the more important question is what evolution means for ethics.



Last edited by Awesomelyglorious on 05 Dec 2009, 4:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

sartresue
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04 Dec 2009, 7:55 pm

Definitions, please topic

AG, are these "ethical impulses" the gut feeling that something is the right/just thing to do?

I need to get this clarified before I can proceed further. Thanks.


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Awesomelyglorious
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04 Dec 2009, 9:46 pm

sartresue wrote:
Definitions, please topic

AG, are these "ethical impulses" the gut feeling that something is the right/just thing to do?

I need to get this clarified before I can proceed further. Thanks.

"ethical impulses"? Well, yes, the gut feeling is probably most of what I am talking about. Basically, I mean "ethical intuitions". So, not the actual choice of doing right, but the feeling about what is right.



DentArthurDent
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05 Dec 2009, 2:26 am

The concept of sociobiology does not ring true to me as it appears to deny the role of nurture in deciding a persons behavioural traits. Where as I feel that it is very likely a complicated fusion of nature, nurture and environment.

Once you get past the major ethical considerations needed for the survival of the species, ethics become much more individualistic and in many cases contrary to the ethical beliefs of the main nurturers in a persons life.

Ethics correspond to truth? no I do not think so, except on a purely pragmatic level. On the other hand a persons ethics may lead them to seek out truth


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Awesomelyglorious
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05 Dec 2009, 3:00 am

DentArthurDent wrote:
The concept of sociobiology does not ring true to me as it appears to deny the role of nurture in deciding a persons behavioural traits. Where as I feel that it is very likely a complicated fusion of nature, nurture and environment.

Once you get past the major ethical considerations needed for the survival of the species, ethics become much more individualistic and in many cases contrary to the ethical beliefs of the main nurturers in a persons life.

Ethics correspond to truth? no I do not think so, except on a purely pragmatic level. On the other hand a persons ethics may lead them to seek out truth

Hmm... well, I think the real issue I am getting at is that if ethical impulses are nearly universal, then there must be some natural selection for ethical impulses. This does not mean that nurture plays no role in shaping some elements of the nature of these impulses, but it seems to me that infinite malleability is not likely the case either. Think about how many times something like the golden rule is repeated, whether in a positive or negative form. That cannot be a matter of luck.

Ok, so you think that ethics is basically an effective way to solve game-theoretic problems within the human race? As in, ethics allow us to find out when cooperation is good and bad without having explicit calculations on these matters?



DentArthurDent
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05 Dec 2009, 3:55 am

Awesomelyglorious wrote:

Ok, so you think that ethics is basically an effective way to solve game-theoretic problems within the human race? As in, ethics allow us to find out when cooperation is good and bad without having explicit calculations on these matters?


I personally believe that truth can be arrived at through analytical objective reasoning, however I also believe that for a great many people the 'truth' is mutable and so therefore are their ethics.

"but it seems to me that infinite malleability is not likely the case either. Think about how many times something like the golden rule is repeated, whether in a positive or negative form. That cannot be a matter of luck"

People may spout golden rules such as 'do unto others ......' but they rarely live by them so I presume you are asking where do they come from, how and why. Again I think for most people these universal ethics / truths are very mutable, why do they exist probably an attempt to avoid conflict and promote mutual understanding and respect, do they work? obviously not. Why not? because they are not based around the true nature of social / class interaction


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Orwell
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05 Dec 2009, 4:12 am

Awesomelyglorious wrote:
Let's start off by accepting the idea that evolution is true, and that people evolved. What are the resulting issues:

Well, let's put it this way:
1) If people evolved, then our ethical impulses are derived from survival.
2) If our ethical impulses are derived from survival, then there is no reason that they'll correspond to some truth.
3) If there is no reason to believe that our ethical impulses correspond to truth, then what is the proper role of our ethical impulses?

I take issue with 2. True beliefs are, in general, more likely to lead to survival than are false beliefs. Of course, it is unclear what precisely you mean by truth in this context.
To answer 3 while ignoring the problems in 2, there are a few different routes. We can maintain our ethical impulses as a "useful fiction" to maintain social stability, or we can reject them for egoism, or we can attempt to find a new set of ethics and somehow impose it over our impulses.

Quote:
In any case, I do think the more important question is what evolution means for ethics.

To me, what is interesting is how and why human ethical behavior evolved and developed in the way it did. I don't care as much about the question of what we should do about it now.


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Awesomelyglorious
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05 Dec 2009, 4:43 am

Orwell wrote:
I take issue with 2. True beliefs are, in general, more likely to lead to survival than are false beliefs. Of course, it is unclear what precisely you mean by truth in this context.

True ethical beliefs are what I am talking about, or at least true ethical intuitions.

In any case, I did bring up your notion:
5) Our ethical impulses actually do correspond to truth, as something about survival value does correspond to some ethical truth.

I also brought about another rejection of 2.
6) Our ethical impulses actually do correspond to truth, as evolution is guided in some form or fashion.

The issue is that you then have to accept the notion that the ethics that emerge from survival value are going to be pretty close to objective ethics, and this can be difficult.

Quote:
To answer 3 while ignoring the problems in 2, there are a few different routes. We can maintain our ethical impulses as a "useful fiction" to maintain social stability, or we can reject them for egoism, or we can attempt to find a new set of ethics and somehow impose it over our impulses.

Well, right, I think I mentioned most of those. I phrased the "useful fiction option" funny, as I was trying to say that ethics could be viewed as interchangeable with game theory for that option. I also had a useless fiction option, that ethics are what it is like to be human and thus ethical claims are somewhat like aesthetic claims. They affect our lives and can move us to action but they aren't true in any sense.

Quote:
To me, what is interesting is how and why human ethical behavior evolved and developed in the way it did. I don't care as much about the question of what we should do about it now.

Well, both questions are interesting, and perhaps somewhat related. In any case, the issue isn't a should so much as just a way to better understand the human condition given that this claim may be true.



Awesomelyglorious
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05 Dec 2009, 4:59 am

DentArthurDent wrote:
Awesomelyglorious wrote:

Ok, so you think that ethics is basically an effective way to solve game-theoretic problems within the human race? As in, ethics allow us to find out when cooperation is good and bad without having explicit calculations on these matters?


I personally believe that truth can be arrived at through analytical objective reasoning, however I also believe that for a great many people the 'truth' is mutable and so therefore are their ethics.

Wait? Before you said that ethics do not correspond to truth, but you take the relationship to truth and ethics for granted. I don't really understand that if the two things are different.

Quote:
"but it seems to me that infinite malleability is not likely the case either. Think about how many times something like the golden rule is repeated, whether in a positive or negative form. That cannot be a matter of luck"

People may spout golden rules such as 'do unto others ......' but they rarely live by them so I presume you are asking where do they come from, how and why. Again I think for most people these universal ethics / truths are very mutable, why do they exist probably an attempt to avoid conflict and promote mutual understanding and respect, do they work? obviously not. Why not? because they are not based around the true nature of social / class interaction

So, you think that the entire nature of ethics is a fiction, and that the real reality is one of social relations? I suppose the additional element is that fictions can be deceiving. So, would you say that standard ethics is a fiction to hide the class struggle?

If this is the case, and recognition of the class struggle is in the interest of those at the bottom, then why have the fiction? I mean, either the fiction wasn't always the fiction, or a process of artificial selection has inculcated the fiction in the lower classes. I suppose if you say that the fiction wasn't always the fiction, then you would take the route that inequality is a relatively new aspect of human life that people haven't fully adapted to, so it does not work very well. In which case though, then finding out the non-fiction elements of ethics seems quite relevant for understanding it, so that way we can see why it emerged and how it got perverted. If ethics is a result of artificial selection, then it seems that humanity should then eventually adapt to a caste system, rather than needing a revolution, as apparently artificial selection processes can work well enough to instill major changes in a population's perspective.

In either case though, I still don't see a major way to connection Marxism and evolutionary theory. I mean, it seems that Marxism has to be reinterpreted as arguing that it is a biological necessity or a logical necessity that the capitalist system be overthrown and that a communist society be implemented. The issue is that I find it hard to see how it can be a biological or a logical necessity that a communist society eventually be implemented. I also see it as hard to argue that it is a biological or logical necessity that a system like the capitalist system be overthrown or that it is logically true or biologically necessary that capitalism is harmful to certain classes of individuals. Perhaps I am jumping the gun here though, but it seems that concepts such as alienation are psychological concepts rather than logically or biologically necessary realities, and that the possible systems that a grouping of creatures could logically implement is hard to set a boundary upon. Like I said though, I might be jumping the gun here, or reaching too far into some matter.



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05 Dec 2009, 11:05 am

Awesomelyglorious wrote:
Let's start off by accepting the idea that evolution is true, and that people evolved. What are the resulting issues:

Well, let's put it this way:
1) If people evolved, then our ethical impulses are derived from survival.
2) If our ethical impulses are derived from survival, then there is no reason that they'll correspond to some truth.


What promotes survival and what does not is contingent on the current state of the world. There is no characteristic that is inherently pro-survival in an a priori sense.

One thing we can say with some certainty; our ethical impulses have to produced a reproductive disadvantage. It it were otherwise, said impulses would eventually disappear.

ruveyn



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05 Dec 2009, 7:26 pm

Survival 101 topic

What comes to mind right now is if a group of non related people come together and discuss what they feel is right and what will help them survive. Kind of like the Poseidon Adventure.

Are these feelings or impulses or intuitions inherent in all humans? I wonder about those psychopaths, who seem to lack ethics, morals or else at least feel they are above it.

Piaget goes to great lengths in his book The Moral Development of the Child that ethics takes time to develop and is a maturation process. The potential is there, and evolves, so to speak, over time.


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